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A Morph is the smallest meaningful unit of language at the level of Parole , which one wins when you split words, segmented . This means that words are broken down into the components ( constituents ) that contribute to the meaning of the word as a whole and its role in the sentence.

Segmentation of words into morphs

The simplest principle of segmentation: A word can be broken down into morphs if the parts appear in other words in the same form and in the same meaning. Two examples: The word goes can be broken down into the meaningful components (morph) go and -t ; the stem go- also occurs in be-geh -bar and the ending -t in play-t has the same meaning. Accordingly, Fahrt can be broken down into fahr- and -t ( fahr- also occurs in Fahr-er and -t in Wach-t ). So you get a segment -t twice ; By segmenting the words, you get two identical morphs. For more information on the principles of segmentation in Morphe, see Best (2001, 2008), Bühler et al. a. (1972); The relationships are not always as clear and simple as in the two examples. The question remains: What do you do with the two different morphs -t ? This is a problem of classification.

Classification of the morph to morphemes

If one then examines the meaning or grammatical function of each of the two morphs -t exerts, one comes to the following: The first Morph (in it ) represents the morpheme "3. Person singular indicative present “, a flexion morpheme, the second (in drive ) for the function of deriving the verb to the noun , it is a derivative morpheme. This assignment of morphs to morphemes is called classification in linguistics . The example also shows that the morph -t can stand for two different homonymous morphemes.

Principles of classification : Two morphs are assigned to the same morpheme if they have the same or at least very similar meaning or grammatical function and also the same or at least similar form ( dog - dog-ish : similar stem with the same / similar meaning ; -est - -st : similar form and same grammatical function: 2nd person singular in verbs, e.g. ord-est - play-st ). Only in inflection can one dispense with the condition of the same / similar form and determine e.g. B. the plural endings -s ( cars ) and -er ( children ) as forms of the same morpheme. Morphs identified in this way as different forms of a morpheme are the allomorphs of that morpheme.

With the classification of the morph as a realization of a certain morpheme, i.e. as its allomorph, one has reached the level of the langue , the language system.

Quantitative aspects

The Quantitative Linguistics is also interested in the quantitative characteristics of morphing. On this topic, reference can be made to several questions that have already been explored:

  • How often do morphs of different lengths appear in texts? There is some evidence to suggest that this is controlled by a law of language: Law of the Distribution of Morph Lengths (Best 2001). Morphs with two phonemes dominate, while the shorter as well as the longer appear less often.
  • How often do words appear in texts that contain different numbers of morphs? This, too, seems to be controlled by a law of language: Law of the distribution of word lengths (Best 2006). At least in press releases, the words that contain two morphs seem to dominate.
  • How does the length of the morph depend on the length of the words of which it is part? There are also findings on this: the more morphs a word contains, the shorter the average morphs are (Gerlach 1982). This is an effect of Menzerath's law .

The needs that the members of the language community enforce in their language behavior are held responsible for these and other findings. An essential need is the pursuit of economy, i. H. after a reduction in the effort involved in speaking and listening.


  • Henning Bergenholtz, Joachim Mugdan: Introduction to Morphology. Kohlhammer, Mainz a. a. 1979, ISBN 3-17-005095-8 .
  • Karl-Heinz Best: On the length of morphs in German texts. In: Karl-Heinz Best (Ed.): Frequency distributions in texts . Peust & Gutschmidt, Göttingen 2001, pp. 1-14.
  • Karl-Heinz Best: How many morphs do words contain in German press releases? In: Glottometrics 13, 2006, pp. 47–58 (PDF full text ).
  • Karl-Heinz Best: LinK. Linguistics in brief with an outlook on quantitative linguistics. 5th revised edition. RAM-Verlag, Lüdenscheid 2008, pp. 15–24 (Chapter: Segmentation and Classification in Morphology ).
  • Hans Bühler u. a .: Linguistics I. Text and exercise book for an introduction to linguistics. 3rd, revised edition. Niemeyer, Tübingen 1972, ISBN 3-484-25011-9 .
  • Hadumod Bußmann (Ed.): Lexicon of Linguistics. 3rd updated and expanded edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-520-45203-0 .
  • Rainer Gerlach: To check Menzerath's law in morphology . In: Werner Lehfeldt & U. Strauss (Eds.): Glottometrika 4 . Brockmeyer, Bochum 1982, pp. 95-113.
  • Franz Simmler: Morphology of German. Weidler, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-89693-304-3 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Morph  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations